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Mother offered full-term abortion because her son had Down’s syndrome

A mother has opened up about the consistent pressure she received from doctors to abort her baby son, even at full-term, just because he has Down’s syndrome.

Cheryl Bilsborrow wanted to speak out after figures published last week revealed that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced new non-invasive prenatal tests.

Speaking to The Sun about her experience, the clinical reflexologist said: “These tests and the scary, negative way in which the results are currently framed are leading pregnant women to abort their much-wanted babies.”

“My two-year-old son Hector is the most wonderful baby.

“He’s got beautiful white hair and blue eyes, and he is always smiling and laughing, blowing kisses and coming for hugs.

“But when I was pregnant I was made to feel like his life would have no value and that I should abort him. Why? Because he has Down’s Syndrome.”

Cheryl was 43 years old when she fell pregnant with her fourth child. Because of her age, she was encouraged by doctors to have a screening test for Down’s syndrome.

At the screening test, Cheryl discovered there was a high-chance her baby would have the condition, so she, along with husband David, decided to book a £400 NIPT at a private clinic to get a more definitive answer.

The pair received a phone call a short time later from a clinician who said: “Really sorry for the bad news but there’s a 99 per cent chance you are having a baby with Down’s syndrome.”

Cheryl said that from the start the doctors’ perception of the condition was negative and that she was encouraged to have an abortion every time she had a midwife appointment.

“There was no offer of counselling, no discussion about how my life might be enhanced by this baby. Abort and get rid seemed to be the only answer.”

But the pair remained adamant that they wanted to keep the baby.

Cheryl said: “What if the midwife had phoned me and said ‘Please don’t be alarmed. You’re having a baby with Down’s syndrome. We can offer you some counselling and help you meet a family with a child with Down’s syndrome so you can learn more.’

“Instead, they made out it was the worst news in the world.

“Even, at 38 weeks, when I went for a scan, the sonographer said: ’You do know we abort babies full term with Down’s syndrome…’

“The message came loud and clear: babies with Down’s were of no value.

“Now, having had Hector, I know there was nothing to be frightened of…

“It breaks my heart to think that so many babies, like [him], could be robbed of their chance to live happy lives.”     

Down’s syndrome advocates are now calling on the Government to halt the roll-out of the new tests and undertake an inquiry into the impact that the tests are having on the birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome.

Currently, 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome identified in the womb are aborted in England, Wales and Scotland.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK said:

“Our current law allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted right through to birth. Already 90% of babies diagnosed in the womb with Down’s syndrome are aborted in Great Britain. The figures released today show that new non-invasive prenatal tests are likely to lead to even more babies who have Down’s syndrome being aborted.

“The Government should not be rolling out these tests if there is evidence that they are leading to more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted. Now there is clear evidence that this is the case, it’s time that the Government pulled the rollout.”

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Dear reader

In 2020, the UK Government imposed an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, which included a provision that legalised abortion right up to birth for disabilties including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

A new Bill has been launched at the Northern Ireland assembly that will remove the current provision that allows abortion for ‘severe fetal impairment’.

It is under these grounds in the regulations that babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot can currently be singled out for abortion in Northern Ireland because of their disability and can be aborted right up to birth.

Before the new abortion regime was imposed on Northern Ireland in 2020, disability-selective abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot was not legal and there was a culture of welcoming and supporting people with these disabilities rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, in the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. 

This contrasts with the situation in the rest of the United Kingdom where disability-selective abortion has been legal since 1967.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to take 30 seconds of your time and add your support to the campaign to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot in Northern Ireland.

If you live in Northern Ireland: 
Ask your MLAs to vote to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot:

If you live outside Northern Ireland: 
Show your support by signing this petition in support of the Bill:

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Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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